Dec 29, 2008 - 1:49 AM
Gift of Gab (left) and Lateef the Truth Speaker (right), along with Headnodic (not pictured) are The Mighty Underdogs. Their debut, Droppin' Science Fiction is in stores now.
Listen to "WarWalk" ft. Chali 2na, Raashan Ahmad, Tash and Zion
The album thrives on super human exaggeration and alternate realities.
“If I was a superhero, I’d be Luke Cage,” Lateef muses before the show. “He was just a big swol’ dude and invulnerable. He was just hella strong.”
Luke Cage, along with Gab’s favorite, the Black Panther, was among the first African American superheroes to appear in his own comic series. The Mighty Underdogs are veterans in their own right, proving their strength as mainstays at Quannum Projects. With nearly 20 years in the business, Quannum is one of the Bay Area’s longest standing labels and collectives. Though released on Definitive Jux Records, Dropping Science Fiction proved to be a family affair and features Quannum mates DJ Shadow & Lyrics Born.
“As we were making the record, it was a really fun process,” Gab explains. “Because it was outside of our regular projects, it felt freer to say we should have a lot of guests on it.” There is no shortage of cameos. Dropping Science Fiction features versus from Zion, Akrobatik, Damien Marley and MF Doom, among others.
“Most of the people on it were family,” says Gab.
“I’d say there’s three categories,” Lateef adds. “One is like homies, then there’s mutual respect cats and the other is business.”
“I just said that,” remarks Gab.
The friendly banter is typical of these two. It’s evident these highly animated men are as much good friends as they are band mates. It’s the main reason the album was recorded so quickly. Originally, the beats were for a solo project Lateef was working on with Headnodic. Lateef had been tossing around the idea of doing something with Gab. In fact, all three had been chatting separately about doing a project together.
“In a week I had recorded a verse and chorus for about 10 songs and I shot them over to Gab who was on tour at the time,” Lateef explains. “He had it done in about a month.”
“‘Monster’ was the first thing I wrote,” Gab states. “The chemistry just took over. Boom, Boom, Boom. I think the dope thing about it was that there was no pre-thought in it. We weren’t even planning to do the record until we started writing.”
That chemistry is as prevalent onstage as it is in the studio. For veterans of the hip-hop scene, it’s interesting to note that the crowd at the Grand Ballroom is young—really young. Except for a handful of concertgoers and security, no one looks a day over 18. Still, the duo manages to wear the teeny boppers out and, after their set, everyone makes a bee line to the refreshments table for bottled water.
While there may not be anything spectacular about back stage snacks and spending the bulk of your time in a bus or plane, touring does have its perks. The Mighty Underdogs have had some ill moments on tour. Whether its Lateef standing on the slopes in British Colombia a half hour after rolling out of bed or having famous fans like Samuel Jackson and Tommy Lee at their shows.
“We had just done a show in Barcelona,” remembers Gab. “It felt like Mardi Gras because everyone was out in the streets drinking and partying. After the show, we’re walking out and start with a couple of people hanging with us. Every five minutes or so someone else would join us. By the end of it we were like 30 deep.”
“Oh, I just remembered,” Lateef chimes in. “In South Africa, I went on this safari.”
“Now you’re competing,” quips Gab.
Lateef continues: “At one point, we get to this road and all the cars are in reverse driving backwards. There was this elephant in the road backing down all these trucks. Our driver happened to be the elephant whisperer or something. He charges the elephant with us in the truck. You just see the elephant’s face in the windshield. Our driver just guns it, vroom, and the elephants like [makes elephant squealing noise].Everyone was just like, ‘Oh shit!’ We’re just holding our cameras like, click click.”
Luckily the elephant eventually walked off and Lateef lived to perform another day.
With their U.S. tour over, the Mighty Underdogs get to have a little break for the holidays. Then they’re off to Europe where they will be releasing another version of the album with some remixes.
For more info on the Mighty Underdogs, visit www.myspace.com/themightydogs.
Kimberly Turner is Oh Dang!'s resident music critic and pastry fiend. And No, she's not fat.
Steven Simonetti is a photographer working out of San Francisco. He is a Capricorn and his favorite color is blue.